After serving for several years in the Air Force, I worked at the Board of Veterans Appeals advocating on behalf of Vets as an appeals representative. In that time, I saw all kinds of claims. As a result, I learned that there were certain truths and methods that many Veterans did not know about. As I talked my Veterans through the process, I often shared some simple truths. And now that I work for the Veterans Benefits Administration at VA, I’d like to share them with you.

Simple Truth #1: Make your claim easy to approve

As a Veterans representative, it was most difficult to move a claim through the process when it was submitted with no evidence to go with it. Sometimes I would get claims for “leg condition” or “back pain,” leaving me with nothing but questions: Which leg? What part of the leg? What is the actual condition causing back pain? Too many times, there were no medical records to show a diagnosis, or worse, nothing that would tell VA where to look for medical records.  When I would talk with the Veteran, I often found that the Veteran did not understand that he or she needed to submit supporting evidence. That’s understandable, because of complex legal requirements for compensation claims. So I often explained that the best way to get a claim granted is to make it easier for VA to grant it, or easier for your representative to help you.

Simple Truth #2: Tell VA where to find evidence

Sometimes I hear people say that VA will develop your claim to the fullest and you just have to file it. But you have to tell VA where to look. If you don’t, it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack of Federal agencies, each with its own set of records. And if Veterans don’t tell VA where their records are, we may not know where to find them. This becomes even more important if you’ve received treatment from a private sector doctor.

Simple Truth #3: Often, you can obtain evidence easier than VA

Usually, Veterans can get evidence about their own history more easily than VA can. Private medical records are a good example of this, since VA cannot compensate private medical providers for records. We have a duty to assist the Veteran in finding evidence, but it can take a lot longer. If you do not at least tell them where the evidence is, it becomes much harder to find and less likely VA will be able to obtain it and grant your claim. To put it another way, if it was hard for me as a Veterans representative, it was hard for VA.

Simple Truth #4: YOU MUST GO TO THAT APPOINTMENT (this is true of any claim)

VA sends you for an exam to obtain updated medical evidence or a nexus opinion stating the condition is indeed due to service. If VA does not get this information, it may not give you the correct rating, or worse, deny the claim. We expedite exams for Veterans using the FDC program. However, submitting a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) with your FDC would satisfy the need for an exam and move your claim to the next stage of processing.

Simple Truth #5: Filing a fully developed claim cuts down on waiting time

It was with the four truths above in mind that VA created the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program. The Fully Developed Claims program allows Veterans more control over their claims and to serve as co-advocates with their chosen representatives. When a Veteran files a claim, you submit all evidence that you can easily obtain and then certify that you have no more evidence to submit. The claims form, cleverly called an EZ form, outlines exactly the evidence you should obtain and the evidence VA must obtain on your behalf. Generally, Veterans submit private treatment records and notify VA where other records exist, like VA Medical Center records or Social Security Administration records. VA will go get Federal records and schedule you for an exam.

On average, VA spends 175 days per claim gathering evidence on the Veteran’s behalf.   That is time Veterans spend waiting to hear about decisions.  If that evidence is provided to VA up front, we can reduce wait time.

Trade Secret #1: Filing an FDC claim with a DBQ is like a super fully developed claim

If you have the ability to get your medical provider to fill out the DBQ form, you should. Doing so essentially means that VA only has to gather federal records. But if there are no federal records to collect, your claims will breeze through the staff that develops claims to the staff that rates claims.

Trade Secret #2: FDC can help you avoid lengthy appeals

For Veterans who filed claims the traditional route, FDCs can help us avoid the appeals process. If you get your decision and are not pleased with it, you can work with your representative to get the evidence needed and ask for reconsideration as a Fully Developed Claim.  For example, Veterans in Illinois are avoiding lengthy appeals by submitting reconsideration requests as an FDC.

Nothing is more helpful for getting the benefits you earned and deserve than your participation in the claims process. VA owes you a transparent and streamlined process, but that process can be made more difficult and cumbersome without your involvement. With that in mind, here is my final truth: If you want your claim processed in 110 days and to have less of a reason to appeal, participate in the process with your representative and file a Fully Developed Claim.

Cat Trombley is a communications specialist with the Veterans Benefits Administration. Prior to working for VA, she was an assistant director with one of the Veteran Service Organizations and represented Veterans before the Board of Veteran Appeals. She is also an Air Force Veteran.

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Published on Aug. 1, 2012

Estimated reading time is 5 min.

Views to date: 2,171


  1. Alan Atkins August 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Please help the veterans of Ft McClellan. Veterans are sick!! Thank you!!

  2. Darrell Manuel August 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Filed original claim in 1991 after returning from Desert Storm. Had my knee replaced completely due to same injury, paid me my 100% disability for a tears recooperating as per regs. Got claim approved 7 months after knee was replaced. Now have a VA Board appeal waiting to go to the board, told usually takes 2 yrs. Have a pending appeal on a claim filed in 2005. Been on appeal for 2 yrs. I was told by my rep that it was up for final review and rating when the RO was told to put it back in the stack and work on something else. Won’t send my appeal tp board in until they rule on this appeal. Have tried evrything I know but am constantly told we are working on your case and we take claims as they are received. How manuy claims are ahead of mine if they have had it foe 2 years.? Every time I hear how VA has sped up the process I want to scream.

  3. Anita Drexler August 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    In February 2009 I submitted a claim for survivors benefits and have been giving a runaround by the Benefits Division. They have lost paperwork, (which I have submitted over 6 times) and I have had to send it to 3 differnt places. I am tired of the “boondoggle” that the VA has created. I requested a hearing in 2011 but after a year all I received was a letter with more forms to request a hearing. I have written and called and received “assurances” that my claim was being processed, BUT instead it was closed 4 times due to paperwork that the VA claimed was missing but in actuality they never requested until AFTER closeing my file each time. I was diagnosed with 2 forms of cancer in February 2012 and have had surgery, a CT scan and a PET scan and am receiving chemotherapy. I have run up over $9,000.00 in bills for co-pays I cannot afford.
    I have copies of the medical records from my doctor to verify the diagnoses, surgery, scans and chemotherapy. I also have copies of all the bills that have mounted up. I would like to have a speedy end to the “boondoggle” and have my claim processed ASAP.

  4. steve mallardi August 18, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Hi, My name is Steve Mallardi, my army ID # 32905307. I served with the 1687 Combat Engineers. I was about to recieve a promotion to Corporal (T-43) when I had an accident and was horoably discharged. I served for a bit less than 3 years. I belong to the American Legion and there is no one with a rank less than corporal. I wonder if I could get that rank before I leave the planet. I am 87 years old and thought I might ask. I also wonder if any one knows how to track down the 1687th. Any answer would be very much appreciated. Thank you, …………..Steve

  5. Kevin Curran August 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I was pretty lucky. Fortunately, I had copied my medical file before I left the USS Enterprise in 89! I got 10 per cent for tinnitus and 0 per cent for hearing within 10 months of the original filing.
    They only gave me 0% for hearing since the said I did not have the Maryland CNC test. I actually did have that test at the Cleveland VA earlier the same year so my Legion Rep is sending some sort of amendment thing as opposed to a complete full fledged appeal.

    Have no idea how long that might take, but I’m lucky to get this far this soon!!

  6. Leonard Wade August 16, 2012 at 10:26 am

    For THREE YEARS I have had a claim in process. I have called VA (the 1000 number) to be told there were no longer travel borads, this happend on FOUR differnet occassions with FOUR different VA reps. After I requested a video conference, I found out there was, in fact, a travel board that was in St. Petersburg last September (2011) and a video conference as well. I have been lied to, given the run around and flatley ignored. The information you have provided is valuable, however, it doesn’t pertain to all. I have given the VA all the required information and then some and it has still been THREE YEARS! Every time I call the 1000 number I am told “I am sorry you’re having problems, but you are on the list and as soon as the VA has a date, they will contact you.” They, the reps who answer the 1000 number, do not have the information that most Vets ask, it is so very , very frustrating, THREE YEARS frustrating !

  7. Denise August 15, 2012 at 9:10 am

    I filed a claim for both of my knees within I year of my discharge from the Army. Received serivce-connection for the right. I have filed numerous claims for my left for the past 15 or more years and received the same answer not service-connected. Tried to find my active duty records and was told that the VA had them. Requested them from the VA, never received a response. Had the opportunity to review them during a DRO hearing and found out I visited the doctor for both of my knees while on active duty. I am facing a knee replacement on my left knee. Do you think I have met the nexis requirements for service-connection, if not any suggestions.

  8. Daniel McFarland August 15, 2012 at 12:36 am

    When I filed my first VA claim, I had documentation of injuries sustained in Iraq. First of all they never sent me a notice for my C&P all they sent was a denial letter. Finally had my C&P a year later. The injuries sustained in Iraq and all the documentation had Baghdad Iraq on it. The VA denied a lot of issues. It state denied it was not due to the army. Well when you get injured on dismounted patrol in Baghdad what the hell does that tell you.Futher more I was informed by the VA that I would have to appeal those denials and that could take up to 4 years. Can you give me some answers.

  9. Gary Moore August 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Think I got carried away and forgot to tell you that what I meant that the Va hadn’t read the doctors report is, that the approval and the explanation that went with it from the VA, told me that if certain medical conditions existed, I would have received a higher rating. Thing is, the doctors report DOES say those medical conditions, the VA referred to, exist in my case. If the VA had spent a few minutes to read the doctors report, they would have seen that the report addressed the very same issues, that they told me had to be addressed to get the higher rating. Frustrating. I’ve been dealing with the VA since 1981 now, and it is always a frustrating experience…every single time. I can’t believe they’re going to deny my claim based on 4/100’s of a percentage point.

  10. Gary Moore August 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    I submitted a request for PTSD several years ago. It was approved for 30%. Since that time I learned the VBA appears not to have read the doctors report, as the response I received from the VA states that had the doctor said I had certain additional conditions, those conditions would have been cause for a higher rating. Since I waited so long (I went to Iraq as a contractor) to respond, Veterans Benefits told me to submit a request for reconsideration, or a new claim. The Representative at Benefits filled it out for me. It was extremely short. I signed it, and it was told it was sent out. I believe what the Representative told me because several months later, I received the standard “We’re Working On It” letter. About a week ago, after not hearing any more about my claim, I went back to the VB office to ask for a status check on the claim. I got a different Rep this time. This young man said he pulled up the old claim and saw where it was adjudicated several years ago, but he found no other claim that the Benefits office sent in for me a few months ago. I asked how that could be since I had already received a “We’re working on it” letter. He repeated that there was no indication that I had filed the de novo claim, or a request for redetermination. I’m confused. I have a copy of the claim I submitted, and now there’s nothing to show it ever existed. All they have is a claim I submitted for diabetes a couple of months ago (June.) That is a straight forward claim supported by a diagnosis from outside physician’s specialist they sent me to for evaluation. I asked the new Representative to see if there was any progress on that claim. He searched and told me that it was approved and sent to another unit for a percentage evaluation. I am currently at 90%. The Representative from Benefits told me that with approval of the diabetes claim, my percentage of disability would be set at 94.96 percent. I asked if they would adjust that by 4/100’s of a percentage point so that I would reach the 100% rating. He said it was going to depend on whoever rates me. Is that a correct assessment? Is there that much discretionary power floating around up there where Veteran “A” in the same situation could get an adjudicator to say “Ehhh, well, it’s only 4/100’s of a point, so lets give it to him, and Veteran “B” (me) gets one that says “The rules are the rules, and there is no room for negotiation. You’re still at 90%…too bad, so sad?

  11. Sam Pilato August 14, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Thanks Catherine we are blessed to have someone that has what it takes to be patient and knowledgeable about the system. I haven’t seen anything about SOC, I have had my appeal in this process since about 2005. I have new evidence to add and would like to know if they have just misplaced or there is a hold up waiting on more research for exposure. I did receive a letter asking if I want to cancel/or continue my appeal before the board. I guess the board is very busy and just can’t get to a lot of South East Asia appeals due to the backlog. Some say that they are waiting for a few more of us to die off. I find that hard to believe. Is it true that Vietnam Vets are dying off at a rate of 300+ a day? That seems to be a lot. I would like to know what I can do or not to resolve this matter. Or find out where we stand at this point. I finally signed in to ebenifits, and myvethealth yesterday and need to visit and get authorization from the doctor/office to upgrade to the “premium” status. OK will this premium (ebenefit) allow me to check or track on my appeal, my ability to add new evidence. We are blessed to have you as someone that actually cares about all of these folks on your blog. is my e-mail address if you need to e-mail a form or any help. Thanks again Catherine.

  12. Charissa August 14, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Thank you for posting this information. I just received a denial of my claim because I was not given/did not have a C&P exam by the VA. Under the evidence section it stated that I was scheduled for the exam in May 2011 before my I left active duty, but that is incorrect. Not only was I not scheduled for an exam in May 2011, but the VA should know that since they gave my home city a two month window (Dec 2011-Feb 2012) to schedule one for me based on th medical records they received in Dec 2011. Since the only reason my claim was denied is due to the lack of an exam (one that I was never notified of or given the opportunity to attend), can I file for a reconsideration with medical evidence from my private physician? Also, the decision was made while I was trying to transfer my case to Virginia since we are here for my husband’s job and will be leaving the country soon. During the 3 months that I was trying to get the case transferred, I was told that it was in the process of being transferred and I would here from a Virginia VA Medical center soon for my appointment. However, I never received an appt and was denied my claim. Given that information, I think I should file a reconsideration with current medical evidence from my private physician. Can I do this?

  13. Juan August 14, 2012 at 6:36 am

    I wait for so long, I did everything I was told, but nothing look to work. I went to all my saving, I’m at the end of the risk, my telephone was shut off, my auto insurance was cancel, medicals bills is with their lawyer(service connected) if I knew those medical bills neither usps or va will it be paying I never put a feet on the hospital, my appeal is being with the va since 2007, I asked for help to expedite it send all papers and according to ebenefits is with the vlj, I called bva and the lady told me that the judge didn’t pick up the appeals yet, and I told her that I saw on ebenefits that is with vlj and she told me that ebenefits is different from bva and the bva doesn’t deal with the ebenefits, so what the use to telling us that we can check our status on ebenefits??? Maybe my appeal is on top of the file cabinets like those claims on North Carolina VA? Not getting what I earn.

  14. Sandra August 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    My day has finally come…..I am officially a ‘Service Connected’ disabled veteran. Logged onto eBenefits to print out a verification of service, and I see all of these other documents available to view/print. While I don’t know my exact rating yet, I know the amount of my monthly compensation and the effective date of entitlement. The amount shown does not reflect any of the amounts listed in the compensation rate table. I do know that it’s more than 30%, seems to be somewhere around 60%. Whatever it is, I am glad that the process is over… least this portion. I still need to file for two other conditions, but I need to get my DBQ’s completed first.

    I am a happy camper today! As I stated in my previous post…..DON’T GIVE UP! Remain proactive…..the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It is my sincere hope that all veterans are granted the benefits/compensation that we are rightfully entitled to. This process has taught me so much. I did most of the nagging myself… VSO didn’t do anything, besides submit my claim. Again, thank you Catherine!!!

    • Rick August 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      Congrats to you …..

  15. James August 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Can you explain how the VBA continues to deny presumptive conditions that are listed for gulf war veterans by saying , not linked to military service. Even though the regulations say six month chronic conditions, do not have to show a military service connection. Such as fibromyalgia which I have been diagnosis by a va doctor for six months but they deny it.

    • Sandra August 16, 2012 at 8:30 am

      Hi James, I also have fibromyalgia and just received a rating for it. I had my doctor write me a letter regarding my health issues. While I don’t have the letter in front of me, just woke up. I’m sure you know about morning stiffness, Not quite ready to get out of bed just yet. The letter went something like this. “I have reviewed the medical of and examined in detail Ms Sandra. In my opinion her current symptoms of chronic fatigue, IBS, and urinary issues are more likely than not related to her military duty. I base my opinion on this because she meets the criteria for medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness (Gulf War Veterans Illness). This includes chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and functional GI disorder. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns regarding her situation”.

      My question, what does your decision letter say? Is the denial based on your medical records, C&P exam, etc. I was asked to provide proof that I was in the Gulf War. I submitted a copy of my DD-214, which lists my campaign badges, medals, and ribbons. Some doctors still don’t understand fibromyalgia, if your C&P was one of them, that could be the problem. What you told the C&P doctor about your symptoms could be the problem too. Read your letter very carefully. The reason for the denial is there. Send me your email address and we can talk in detail about how to get your claim approved. You can reach me at; Hope to hear from you soon. I know this process is frustrating, just the wait had me seething. I’m just glad that I only had one thing denied. There is light at the end of the tunnel….stay prayerful and whatever you do…..don’t give up!
      Looking forward to hearing from you.


  16. Frustrated 2 August 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Dennis, my sister and I have been trying to get service connected disability compensation for our father, who is 91 years and a WW2 Vet. We’ve read everything, talked to all kinds of people, written several letters to our congressman and to the white house, and after 4.5 years, still nothing. Just the same old rhetoric that they are working on his claim and sorry for the delay. I hate to sound jaded and disrespectful, but I have some suggestions that might help speed up the whole backlog mess. 1. What about giving vets a certain amount of money while waiting for the process, the longer the delay, the more money is given out. 2. Or, maybe wages and bonuses should be contingent on how fast and accurate claims processors do their work. The longer the delay, the less they get paid. In other words, there has to be some kind of accountability and incentive to get things done more efficiently. 3. What about having a middle man that is non VA, that accepts all the paperwork and then they turn around and hand it off to the VA claims people. This middle man will then keep tabs on how fast or slow the claim is moving along. 4. Lastly, if a claim takes too long, then the Vet has the option to sue for twice the amount he originally qualified for.

  17. Brandy Morrison August 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    My husband has been out of the NAVY since early 90’s and only recently was told all his “quirks” were PTSD. His claim was denied for lack of evidence. My husband has been drinking and smoking pot and an emotional roller coaster since we met in 1995 and according to his family since he left the NAVY. What can we do to show them! How can you prove something when you didn’t know what it was until someone helping you fill out disability paperwork told you that’s what it was! We’re happy to know, now we want help!

  18. Rick August 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Catherine, as I stated earlier the RO forgot to get report from Dr, mar 9th they recieved it said I wouldn’t be put to back of line but 6months later still waiting maybe they should have like a red flag system where when info is needed and comes in open the case and finish. All this is done on line can’t see what the hold up should be. Thanx

  19. Dennis Fitzgerald August 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    I give up, just spent twenty minutes putting together post and it popped up Captcha failed and erased entire post.

    Bottom line is this: VA system Backlogs are not going to be fixed for this important reason!
    THEY ARE NOT AN ERROR NOR A CONSEQUENCE, THEY ARE AN INTENTIONAL PRODUCT OF THE AGENCY BY DESIGN! PEOPLE, THESE BACKLOGS ARE HERE TO PREVENT PAYMENT OF BENEFITS IN A TIMELY MANNER. WE ARE FOOLS TO BE MISLEAD TO THINK OTHERWISE. If this were not true you would simply be able to contact the claims person handling your claim and resolve the issues at hand, why can we not set the system up to do that – very simple, it would clear up the backlog and then they would be out of, jobs for government employees, loss of money saved when vets give up or die before the decision is made and others. There is no mistake here, look at the Welfare system, three times as many people processed, all within an average of 45 days!


    Everyone, especially the VSO’s are all trained to know that “this is how the system works” in other words it IS because IT IS! This is not an accident, it is the system.

    VA does not care, that I lost my company, house, marraige, cars, and no longer have a place to live or a way to make a living. This is the way the system works and I just have to wait, sorry! Yep you sure are!
    Dennis Fitzgerald – Veteran USAF –
    unable to work, able to write and to think!

    • Bruddah iz August 12, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Dennis I recently read a book by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson titled “Why Nations Fail”. Your Comment about “designed backlog” reminded me of that book as it applies to government policies. The authors also argue ,as you do, that government often gets things wrong not by mistake but by design. Acemoglu is the Killian professor of Economics at MIT so he knows a little bit about government policies. Sorry I don’t have immediate solutions for these problems but I was discussing with another VA employee why there is not more phone interaction between what the VA calls “digit owners” and claimants. As former military recruiters we were constantly on the phone with prospects and have no fear of calling prospects and now claimants, to expedite a claim. I do not think that your expectations are totally unrealistic. Hope things get better for you soon and thank you for your service!!

  20. Sandra August 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Hi Catherine,
    Just wanted to thank you for your assistance. I received a phone call from the RO twice. I had to verify that I am indeed a Gulf War veteran, though it’s hard for me to understand why the VBA does not know this information. If a veteran can request a copy of their DD-214 on the 800 line, why don’t the RO’s have access to those documents? Anyway, I faxed the RO a copy of my DD-214 which states the campaign badges that I received for Desert Storm. I visited the RO yesterday, and was told that my rating was just completed, and that I should receive my award letter in the next few weeks.

    Again, thank you so much! To all of my fellow veterans, don’t give up! I suggest being proactive as much as you can. If you reside in the CA bay area, Congresswoman Jackie Speier has taking a serious stance in dealing with the Oakland, CA regional office. There was an article in the Contra Costa Times recently with the stories of a few veterans that her office assisted. Once her office looked into their claims, they received their decisions within two weeks.

    DON’T GIVE UP!!!

  21. francis m doyle August 9, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    i had a hearing at the va,20 washington pl newark nj on june 25,2012.after three years i finally got the hearing and showed them all the info about my case that i had to track down by myself..for three years they did not believe me,a woman judge from washington d.c. heard my case again after three years,i am 68 years old,and i was told by the american legion which represented me that it might take another 2 or 3 years before i can get an answer,for a total of 6 years.why is taking so long,i thought congress gave gen.shensecki more money to hire people to move this program at a faster rate,maybe they are waiting for me to die i don`t know but i know this wrong what they are doing to me and a hell of alot of veterans from the vietnam era.thank you

  22. RC August 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Sry Catherine its just me again. Ok i just got off the phone with VA 1-800-827-1000 and spoke to a lady about my concerns with this Ebenefits showing a decision was made by the BVA. Her comment was no the BVA doesnt have your claim and yes a decision was made but by the VBA. She said i guess all the appeals show BVA on the Ebenefits website, and i said why cant they show VBA if thats who has it, her comment was well you should know where your appeal is to begin with. Ok this might be true, but alot of veterans rely on what there Ebenefits show, and since ours showed BVA thats why were calling them. In my opinion i think Ebenefits should say if it was BVA or VBA, in my case it has caused alot of confusion. There is a huge difference between the VBA and the BVA. I see you have help so many people and think this is something the VA should look into. Thanks again.

    • Catherine Trombley August 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm


      Thanks for this information. I will forward your comments to the section that works on ebenefits so they can try to work it out. We do use our products, but its great to have Veteran feedback. Thanks again.

  23. RC August 8, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Catherine just wanted to let you know , that i think i figured out what is wrong with my appeal status on Ebenefits. The gentlemen i spoke with from Ebenefits was very helpful. I think its just a typing error. At first we thought they posted someone else status on mine but everything status wise is ok, its just the reason BVA said they never had a claim on me is because they Havent. Its an appeal that should have been typed VBA, thats why its still at the RO and they made there decision and we should receive something soon. I just assumed it was an appeal at the BVA since thats what Ebenefits showed. Im on the phone with the regional office now on hold , so hopefully they can just go into the Ebenefits website and change it from BVA to VBA. Just wanted to clear it up, hopefully when i get off the phone they will correct this.

  24. spouse of a veteran August 7, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Catherine, i noticed you havent been responding like you were. I know you have to wait for moderation to approve them, but just wondering . Thanks

  25. william August 7, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    As I said before; I went to my RO on Monday and I must say I had a great experience. First as I went through the security check, the person there was so nice and helpful; also very understanding. The person I met at first was as equally nice and helpful. Even so, I got a little upset about the waiting in order to talk to someone about my claim. However, after about and hour of waiting; someone called my name. I told the person who was assisting me that when I looked at my ebenefit account I saw a message that said I needed to send VA more information to support my claim. She listening very carful to what I had to say. Next she pulled up my ebenefit account so I and she both can view it. She explained to me by law VA has to send that information out to everyone and the reason I send it on ebenefit was because they wanted to get that information out to me faster, also, a letter has been sent out to me with the same information.

    I told her I had sent all of the information they are asking for to them already; so she strolled down on my ebenefit account and showed me all of the information they have; in order to support my claim. Next, I told her I had with me everything I have sent to them. So, she asked if there was anything I had with me that I haven’t giving to them already and to give it to her at that time. So, I gave her a few more pieces of information I thought would help support my claim. The person helping me told me she was going to take my information over to someone and have them to pull my file and start working on it. She also told me someone would call me within a week to make sure everything was ok. I got a call today from the person that was to call me within a week and they explained the process of how my claim would be handled. Later today I receive a letter in the mail which stated the same information I have seen on ebenefit. Also, there was a form with the letter call the VCCA Notice Response. It stated:

    We provide a notice to you about the evidence and information VA needs to support your claim for benefits. At this time, you may choose to indicate whether you intend to submit additional information or evidence that would help support your claim.

    Your signed response will let us know whether to decide your claim without waiting 30 days, or whether we should give you the full 30 days from the date of the letter sent with this notice response before deciding your claim. I checked the box that stated:

    I have enclosed all the remaining information or evidence that will support my claim, or I have no other information or…

    • william August 7, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      I have enclosed all the remaining information or evidence that will support my claim, or I have no other information or evidence to give VA to support my claim. Please decide my claim as soon as possible.

      So, hopefully I will hear something within the next 30 days. If the person I talked to yesterday is on the same page as the one or ones who are going to make a decision on my claim; I should be in good shape to get an approved decision within 30 days. As I said before; when I went to my RO I had one great experience and the people I met with was wonderful.

      • Catherine Trombley August 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm


        Is there a place on the form to sign saying you have no more evidence to submit? If so, sign it and send it back. VA is required by law to send this and wait for your response. If you do not sign it or submit new evidence, VA is required to send it again and wait.

        I know its frustrating, but its in your best interest for VA to take the time to tell you exactly what constitutes evidence. If you sign the page and send it in, you should move to the next phase.

        • william August 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm

          Yes Catherine; I got that form and I signed it and I sent it back yesterday, I hope they get it and I hope I well here something in the next 30 days or so.

  26. Juan August 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I filled for financial hardship on 7/2/2012, I send all my medicals bills and some utilities that I’m behind, I had a job, I worked all my life, I had injuries, now I’m on that point that I’m not longer that soldier who was before all the injuries and illness I’m suffering, I’m not blaming the ARMY, I enlisted the US ARMY because I want to serve my Country and I did, but now I’m asking for help but no one have an answer, 7/20/2012 filled that financial hardship according to bva it was waiting for the Judge to pick it up, now today I called again and the saaame lady told me that it have to be approve by a supervisor, what else I can do? My appeal is being with the VA since 7/2007, is hard and painfull, see my family suffering from my Service Connected injuries!!!

  27. Rob August 7, 2012 at 2:14 pm


    Thanks for laying this out so clearly. Had this process existed a few years ago, I might not be in year 3 of the appeal currently pending for an issue I submitted as fully developed. I’m not over-exaggerating: I sent in a fully developed claim with a nexus letter from the treating physician (the same physician that treated me while on active duty) only to have the claim denied. I’m not whining but am a little frustrated that even the simplest of conditions clearly occurring while on active duty and due to treatment while on active duty can still be denied. Now, I sit waiting for a DRO review. I know, having a fully developed claim does not equal a granted claim, but this particular issue should have been pretty straight forward. This is why we have appeal rights, though. Again, thank you for at least putting this on one page.

    I was also told this particular review was now being combined with another older (4+years) review for another issue. Have you heard of this? If so, isn’t this just extending the age of both reviews?

  28. RC August 7, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    sorry just one more thing i noticed. when i went to the details about your BVA appeal received on no date
    Historical Appeals: 8-01-12-date of BVA decision
    Current progress: decidion &claims file dispatch
    Current Progress description: your case has been received at BVA & BVA has mailed your decision to you & rep. & will be returning your claims file to the VA Medical Center. Please note that transit times vary & there maybe some lag time between when BVA forwards your claims file to the appropriate location.
    Thats really the only thing i can see, so im not sure why when i called the BVA said they never had it? When a decision is made, why does it get transferred. thanks again

  29. RC August 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Catherine, i have a question i think you can help me with. Ive had one appeal that is pending, and Ebenefits use to always say it was in stage ONE phase. I looked today and now its at the last stage that says :” current- decision & claims file dispatch-this indicates that BVA mailed the decidion to you & your rep. & transferred your case to another location. Please refer to your Appeal detail screen for further information about the specific location of your case. ” I have not recieved anything in the mail about a decision from the BVA , so i called there 1-800-923-8387 for the BVA and they looked up my claim and said they never had the claim in BVA. That it must still be at the regional office yet on Ebenefits it says the BVA made the decision and we will get that in the mail. Can you tell me if you heard of this before and what does it mean. Thanks for your help

  30. David Bradford August 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Amanda, many of us have the same complaints and frustrations. The truth is that there are claims backlogs all across the country with some offices worse than others. Like, for instance, the Waco, Texas regional office, the one I personally deal with, is the second worse for backlogs. Anyway, President Obama made sure that the Department of Veteran Affairs received a lot more money to quote “Fix the Problem”. And, the current VA secretary vowed to do that by implementing various new measures to supposedly expedite claims. The thing is that even if it ever gets “fixed”, it will take several years. So, for those who will file, say 5-10 years from now, they might be helped faster. Unfortunately, that’s little consolation for those that need the help NOW or should I say YESTERDAY. So, in the meantime, there will be a lot of frustration and endless run-around, and finger pointing. For now, you and I will be told that WE need to be patient and that WE need to submit our paperwork correctly and that WE should be willingly to jump through as many hoops that are placed before us even if it means jumping through the same one more than once. Best wishes, and may the Almighty help us all.

  31. Anthony Hann August 6, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    I have a pending appeal from the department last time i received a letter from them is last January 14, 2012, They said that my pending appeal is already assign to a DRO for review
    they have the complete documents needed, how long do you think i have to wait for the decision. My pending is already 14 months old with no answer please let me know how long do i have to wait. Thanks you very much for information you can provide me.

  32. Amanda August 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    My husband is a former Marine he filed his claim of benefits June 2011 and everytime he calls the VA they tell him they have no information to give just that they are processing it not even sure if he was approved or denied. We are stuck and have nowhere to turn, It would help our finacial situation greatly if they would just process his claim and tell us whats going on.

  33. vietnam vet August 5, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Can someone help me with a question i have. I did 2tours in nam and received a Honorable discharge for mental problems. They wrote a letter stating that vietnam messed my mind up and I couldnt go back. I told them thats where i belonged and still they denied me to go back. I have a private MD, whom has been treating me with meds and counseling for PTSD. A few years ago I requested copies of my medical records, there was a X mental() personality disorder on my General medical records. My question is how do i get a copy of this letter stating vietnam messed my mind up and the Mental health records, ive read they’re 2seperate health records. Do i have to request those seperately are should they have been in with the rest of my medical records and where or whom do i call. .Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  34. william August 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I thought I was going to get a decision on my claim something soon because when I looking at the status of my claim on ebenefit I saw that my claim had moved from gathering evidence to reviewing evidence. Later on I went back and look at status of my claim on ebenefit I get this information.

    “Please submit evidence that shows when this disability(ies) began. Service-connection may be granted for chronic disabilities which are at a compensable level (at least 10 percent disabling) within a certain period following your discharge from active duty service. For most chronic disabilities this is within one year from the date of your discharge (for Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and tuberculosis, within 3 years; multiple sclerosis, within 7 years).”

    “Please submit medical evidence on your current disability as well as evidence showing a connection between your disability and your service connected condition. We will consider service connection for your as secondary to your service connected condition. Note: Temporary or intermittent flare ups of a condition are not considered aggravation, unless the underlying condition, as contrasted by symptoms, has gotten worse.” If you do not respond, VA may deny your claim.

    • william August 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      This is BS because if someone would have looked throw the hundred pages I sent to them they would have seen the LOD (DD Form 2173) with all of the pages of my medical evidence; along with a letter from my VA doctor state that disabilities is service connected. I don’t know what else they need and I’m not going to let them deny my claim. I have a doctor appointment in two days on Monday; which is not to far from the RO who is handling my claim. They asks for the date of my disabilities; if they would had look at the medical evidence from the Army hospital I went to the next day of my injuries. With this statement it makes me wonder if they are considering inactive duty training because I was on AIT duty when my injuries happen. “within a certain period following your discharge from active duty service”. This BS to the highest; I’m not going to let them make go to appealing to get what is my rights. We are going to get this right and settle up front. I have been looking the Board of Veterans’ Appeals Decisions; all day long trying to make sure I have grounds to stand on. I tell you if you don’t fight for your rights you will just get push to the side.

  35. Bill Prevatt August 4, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Catherine how can you go back to review the segmented lanes blog? I have tried every which way possible to find that blog but not having any success.

  36. Bill Prevatt August 4, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Now I am sure that this will offend the women on this blog and for other women that will read this, but I just need to see what the official word on this subject matter. I have heard that it is an automatic 50% for women and I have heard that its 30%. The issue I am speaking about is a woman having a hysterectomy while on active duty, than retires or gets out on a medical condition. Why is it an automatic rating, even when its not service connected? I mean is it an automatic % for a male that has a vasectomy, while on active duty even if its not service connected? If not than why is it automatic for women? I have heard and seen where women have gotten their ratings back and they have gotten rated for their hysterectomy, not even service connected but b/c they were on active duty, they were given a percentage. Then you have service members that have proven their cases more times over and they are only given a max of 30% for a certain disability.

    • MEG August 6, 2012 at 11:35 am

      A vasectomy is an elective sterilization procedure for men as is bilateral tubal ligation for women. If a male veteran lost one or both testicles while on active duty and or lost his penis (think IED blast, Army combatives, or poor circulation riding in a Humvee for hours on end), then the VA considers that the loss of a creative organ. The loss of the uterus and ovaries are also considered loss of a creative organ and if it occurs while the woman is on active duty, then it is considered service connected. Women have total hysterectomies for a variety of reasons, such as severe hemorrhage during childbirth, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, uterine fibroids or cancer.

      For example:
      7617 Uterus and both ovaries, removal of, complete: For three months after removal 100% Thereafter 50%

      Source: 4.116 – Schedule of Ratings – Gynecological Conditions and Disorders of the Breast

  37. KV August 4, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Huge question. I have been rated at 70% for anemia for Hemoglobin at 6.6 in 2003. Jan 2005 my hemoglobin was at 4.7 which would qualify me for a increase to 100% but i didn’t file a claim for increase. Now August 2012 I recently went to the ER and my hemoglobin is 4.5. I filed a FDC claim yesterday for an increase. Since the VA says on the FDC form that the effective date for compensation is based on when the VA received your claim and
    when the evidence shows a level of disability that supports a certain rating under the rating schedule or other applicable standards. What would be my effective date for compensation? Would it be (Jan 2005 when the evidence (hemoglobin 4.7) showed a level of disability that supports a certain rating under the rating schedule or other applicable standard) or would it be (August 2012 when I filled my claim)?

    • Catherine Trombley August 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Hi KV,
      Great question! [According to 38 C.F.R. § 3.157] If you were seen in a VA facility for a previously service-connected condition AND the medical report clearly states that condition has worsened, VA will treat the exam report as an informal claim and the effective date is the date of the report. If you filed the formal claim within a year of that report date, you should be good to go. If it was after a year, VA can generally only pay back one year from the formal claim.
      If you were seen by a private provider for which VA did not pay, the effective date is either the date of claim or the date entitlement arose, whichever is later.

  38. David Bradford August 3, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Catherine, may I ask a couple of sincere questions? I’m not trying to be sarcastic, but do veterans really ever get service connected disability compensation? I mean, does that really happen? And, wouldn’t you agree that a private organization would do a better and more efficient job of processing these claims?

    • Catherine Trombley August 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm


      Yes, Veterans do get service connection. I am service connected. Many of my colleges are. In fact, of all the Veterans I know, only a handful are not service connected for anything. Now granted, there are different rates of S/C. Some people are 10% while others are 90 or 100%.

      Actually, private organizations are not accountable to the public or Congress the way federal agencies are. They are not required to be transparent and they don’t have to hire Veterans. Red tape exists in private organizations, the difference is you can’t see it. What I will tell you is we are using best practices from private organizations such as formal project management plans, lean six sigma and in process quality reviews. We are making it better, just not overnight.

  39. william August 3, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    I was going back a forward looking into ebenefit and I was written a pretty angry post complaining about how long I have been waiting but as I kept going back and forward looking at ebenefit so I could give the correct information relating to my claim. I notice my claim has moved for gathering evidence to reviewing evidence, so, I must say I’m happy for that. So, I would like to know how long does it take to get from reviewing of evidence to the decision phase?

    • Rick August 6, 2012 at 11:35 am

      Good luck min has been there over a yr, never took this lone before.

  40. Kathy McCollough August 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    If I have already filed a NOD and it is still in Phase 1 of the process at the RO, can I still file a FDC? If so what is the process?

    • Catherine Trombley August 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      Unfortunately, no. Once an NOD is given we have to treat the claim as an appeal. Did you ask for a Decision review officer as part of your NOD?

  41. PJ August 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Catherine: I wanted to ask you a question or make a statement, why does the VA include in their claim determination pkts. (the ones they send the veteran letting them know their decisions) Form 4107 “Your Right To Appeal Our Decision” if a veteran should be filing an FDC instead..the Decision pkt. from the VA says nothing about a FDC….just wondering, i believe my husband’s claim may have been submitted like a FDC in the first place, but just curious as to why if they are looking to make the processes more undestandable and easier for the veteran, that they don’t give that information to the veteran ???? Also my husband, who i told you before did receive his 100% rating ,but was denied a few things that we could disagree with and i ask you before about doing that if he had already reached the 100% and i do recall your answer, but if we was to go ahead and ask for a reconsideration, would i have to check with our rep first to see if it was a FDC we had filed ..i know it was a request for a rating increase and we did sign a paper saying we had give them all evidence, and it was processed by “The Tiger Team” at our RO….. and if we did ask for reconsideration , do we file another FDC or how do we go about requesting a reconsideration for the few things that they denied as being service connected. and P.S…what is the Tiger Team?

    • Catherine Trombley August 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      Hi PJ,

      Appeals for FDCs are the exact same as traditional appeals.

      However, generally on any claim — FDC or traditional — and the basis of the denial is missing evidence, such as lack of a diagnosis you have one year from the date of that decision to resubmit this evidence and/or file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) to start your appeal process. If you choose, you can ask for a reconsideration with the new evidence. If it’s packaged as an FDC, it will go through quickly.

      We are working to publicize this program so Veterans understand the difference. As we roll out new initiatives, you will begin to see how they work together.
      Tiger Teams are special teams dedicated to remedy a situation. We have used them to work the oldest claims in inventory and claims of our oldest Veterans for example.

      • PJ August 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm

        Catherine : i hate to bother you again, but concerning the tiger team…my husband is very ill but he is only 62, not as old as i think you mean by old, and as far as remedy something ??? my husband only filed his claim initially about three years ago so his claim isn’t that old either, and the increase he asked for last was because he was 90% w 100 % u/i. A va ( c & p) doctor told us in the beginning that my husband should be 100% in his opinion….so it sounds to me like if they were remedying something it was just the fact that my husband was 100% all along and that needed to be addressed before he subcomed to his illness. Is there any way i can find out why my husband’s last request for increase was chosen by the Tiger Team or does it just leave us wondering? I know some people think i should just be still since my husband is 100% rated , but you would have to know what we have been thruough and the stress we have endured (walk in our shoes, so to speak) to know why i’d like an answer! Not to mention, i am having a hard time with trust after all i am reading…Just trying to take care of my man and assure him that he has taken care of his wife. And again, thanks for your help!

  42. ssgt leslie wohlfeld August 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    we still have the problem with the raters sending the paperwork back for clarification. when the c and p drs. clearly indicate it is service connected or aggravated by the service. this is only one example, as clearly seen from the other comments…the idea is good, the practice and implementing is not working, when we as veterans provide all the letters, reports, etc…clearly indicating service connection, these claims should be treated a a full developed claim. instead the file is sitting on someones desk, for months and months. also there is a reward system in place for the regional office workers tied to the claims…not sure what this is all about, how it is effecting the claims being processed. the system is antiqued and needs to be modernized, with more and more of us returning from oef and oif, the system will break from the overload. vha, vhb, and va needs to listen to the DAV, VFW and the other VSO’s for their ideas on how to correct the backlog and make the process more fluid and easier. instead it is cumbersome. once a veteran is denied, the system discourages an appeal..because of the years…of backlog. if the claim is rated according to the regulations, we will not be in the state we are in. thank you.

    • vietnam vet August 5, 2012 at 10:36 am

      What do you mean RO gets a reward system??? Are you stating that they get awarded something for not processing a claim or are you saying that if they process it quickly they are awared something. I do agree with you on if all the medical evidence is submitted they should all be fully developed and treated like a FDC claim. Really i dont understand why they seem to make it more complicated then it needs to be .. File them all the same unless they are waiting for a C&P exam and even then once the exam is done , it should be processed back as a FDC claim. Just like a rate increase or I/U claims, they should all be filed FDC unless the veterans needs another exam. I just dont get it. File them all FDC so that ALL can get there claim awarded in 110days. I still say its very sad that these older veterans have been waiting years for there claims and alot of them are in very bad health, its just not right that they cant be resubmitted under this FDC, its not the vets fault the VA didnt have the proper proceeders in place back then. Once again unjust..

    • Catherine Trombley August 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      Hi Ssgt.
      Sometimes we have to ask the C&P examiner for clarification even though the opinion is clearly stated. An opinion has to include a statement say the doc reviewed the record, and a rationale. If the C&P opinion differs from other opinions, the doc has to state why. Without a rationale, or statement of review, the opinion will not hold up. This is a legal requirement and is meant to give you the most informed opinion possible.
      A claim must be certified as Fully Developed in order to get the faster processing. That means you have to submit an EZ form with your claim. The traditional process has built in waiting periods to allow you to add evidence. If VA does not hear from you, they have to resend the notice and wait again. On the VCAA form, there is a spot saying you have no more evidence to supply. Signing this gets your claim to the next step.
      VA is working with VSOs to Transform the way we do business. VSOs are brought into the planning phases and their opinions are sought out. In fact, both the DAV and the VFW, as well as other VSOs have lauded VBA in front of Congress for including them and giving them unprecedented access. We value the relationships with have with the VSO community.

  43. SFC John Sipkens August 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

    My claim is now over 900 days old I had medical exams by the VA over 2 years ago which fuly established the medical conditions. I have submitted extensive documentation showing exposure to pesticides and herbicieds over a 20 year period, I gave them a list f the itemsto include federal stock numbers. I provided herbicide and pesticide applicator training and authorization to perform duties paper work.. why oh why has the paper work sat on some desk for more than 2 years. I filed a congressional almost a year ago nothing,,,

  44. Karl August 3, 2012 at 8:13 am

    So whe the VA rep was a TAPS – telling us to not go into detail on our conditions when submitting, it was the VA telling us how to do it wrong? We were specifically told by the VA rep not to elaborate or identify where the evidence was. So the VA is purposely subverting the process? I guess this was possible, because the same VA told me if I file the claim while still active duty, my claim would be resolved within 60 days. It has been over a year and still in process.
    This is more of the VA blaming veterans for their complete and total incompetency.
    Catherine – it is not our fault these claims are delayed. Quit blaming us for the VA falacies.

    • vietnam vet August 5, 2012 at 10:57 am

      i agree with you, it really seems as though the reps are not filing them properly and why that is i have no clue. Example, if John Smith has diabetes was in vietnam when agent orange was sprayed on him goes to a private MD doc and provided medical evedence to the VA rep files the claim FDC and gets awarded in 110days, then you have Harry Smith who has diabetes from agent orange goes to the private MD doc and provides the same medical evedence to the rep as John did but harrys rep filed it the old way, which Harry had no clue which way was the fastest, he just let the rep handle it, well now Harry is waiting in this long line for years waiting to get his C/P awarded. So Harry calls and complains and says hey i want my claim to be process this FDC way, well guess what Harry cant do anything beside wait years for what is rightfully owed to him. Thats why i say, file them all FDC as long as all the evidence is submitt, then if its denied, give the vet time to gather more evidence and then still refile it FDC, BAMMMM guess what now Harrys claim is awarded. Someone needs to pull these veterans files and see that the evidence or additional evidence has been provided many years ago. This is my opinion, and hopefully ALL veterans will be treated equilly.

  45. Rick August 2, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    If the VA is so backlogged, they need to hire more people and train them. My claim has been in over a yr, the last 180 days in review everytime I call I get a different answer or they read me the same stuff. Maybe they should work sat to when we sign the dotted line they dont make us wait, but when it’s something you deserve you wait..

    • MEG August 3, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      There are thousands of veterans with specialized skills that need jobs. My experience in applying for work within the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has been very disappointing. I have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an RN license, 27 years of health care experience and I work with a service dog who performs tasks to mitigate my disabilities. I interview well telephonically and between my education, licensure, exceptional performance evaluations and experience, I easily meet the initial qualifications for many VA healthcare and VA benefits jobs. Unfortunately, once the interviewers see me with my service dog at the second interview, I never get called back for a third interview or offered a job.

    • Catherine Trombley August 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Its not as simple as hiring new employees. It can take two years for a new employee to be journeyman-level. It not enough to just increase personnel, or change training, or change the process (see my last blog on Segmented Lanes). We have to change the process, and add technology. We are currently in various stages of more than 40 initiatives to improve your experience. DBQ and FDC are just two examples. Stay tuned! We are working hard behind to the scenes to fix things. It won’t be overnight, but we are committed.

      • Rick August 3, 2012 at 7:17 pm

        Would you know who updates ebenifits, the estimated date of completion is new and all they do is keep changing the date? How many people actually do work on them the 1 800 # people dont tell you much. thanx

        • Catherine Trombley August 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm

          Rick, when our processors touch your claim and move it to the next level, they update that information in one of our systems, that system is the backend of eBenefits and updates your status. Typically you have a pre-decision person who helps you develop the claim (get medical records, order exams, ask SSA for records, etc). When the claim is deemed “ready to rate” by the first processor, it goes to the rater who rates the claim. Then there is post review, for accuracy and if there is an award, to process the award. Typically, between 3 and five people touch the claim. (we conduct quality reviews, which account for the extra people).

          • Rick August 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm

            Great thanx one more question, In Jan they were ready to decide my claim but they forgot to send me to comp Dr after my third surgery, meanwhile they granted my temp 100%. Mar 9 they recieved Dr, report said i wont get pushed back to end of line, but that was 6months ago, so does your claim start over because of there error? Thanx I would of thaught report is here finish claim.

      • Bill Prevatt August 4, 2012 at 9:59 am

        Catherine, You are correct in saying that its not as simple as hiring new employees. If given the chance to do the job, rather than putting more pressure on an employee to do it right the first time there would not be such a huge turn over in the VA. VA could keep the seasoned employees and have work production great. That is not the case. The case is that a new employee is put under a microscope and nit picked on things that are truly not disclosed at training and when returning to the RO, you are expected to “KNOW EVERYTHING” about processing a claim. Then your made out to be an example of how NOT to process a claim.

  46. Chesty Puller August 2, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I agree with the writer. Following this advice will help in processing your claim more efficiently. Unfortunately, it is the system within the system that has stagnated the process. I am talking about the employees who process the claims and are forced to work on a quota system. No one wants to work the file that takes all day when you only get 1 point for it. What happens? It gets pushed to the side and the quicker ones get processed so employees can get their 5 or 6 points a day and not have to stress about getting fired or getting put on PIP (performance improvement program). The quota system is the stupidest most bureaucratic bs you could ever imagine. But you won’t hear about it because VA employees will get in serious trouble for talking bad about the VA.

  47. Allen Cheesman August 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Briefs well. Too bad it isn’t simple as stated nor does it occur. The Houston Regional Center has had all evidence required for my claim since March and keeps sliding the expected processing time further out on ebenefits. If you are going to counsel veterans within social media make sure that the processes are actually happening.

    • Allen Cheesman August 4, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      Funny! Since I posted my comment within this blog string the estimated time shown within ebenefits to complete my claim has shifted yet again! Previously it said DEC 2012 b MAR of 2014. Now it says: Claim Received: 02/13/2012 Claim Type: Compensation Estimated Claim Completion Date: 01/01/2013 to 09/01/2013. Again, the strategic communication attempt briefs well, however the processes are not executed as conveyed. This is the third time shift.

  48. Anthony August 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I am having trouble with my claim. I keep getting calls from an individual to return the call. When I try to reach him in Indianapolis, I get a recording then return calls from Pennsylvania and Nashville. How can I get the proper information to the person who calls when I cant call him back. The VA is infamous for their aggravating phone system. You call the number given and if you are able to talk to a human, you are one of the lucky ones. I submitted my medical information, then after waiting a year or two, who really knows, Ive lost count, I get a notice asking for the same information I just sent. Once again, I send information only to receive a booklet telling me about Veterans benefits. No decision, no nothing. In the handbook it tells of programs, gives a websight, and when you go there, it is everything but what the booklet says. How is a Veteran to figure anything out when it is so well covered?

    • Catherine Trombley August 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      Are you using a representative to help you with the claims? They typically work in the regional office and can be your eyes and ears. Also, they share a wealth of experience to help you be successful.
      Try our secure online inquiry system:

      • Juan August 4, 2012 at 11:53 am

        Catherine, I appreciate all the info and in respect on my Veteran Service Officer I called maybe 3 times and what they always said is “you will know 1st before us” I did filed financial hardship like you advise me back on July 20, I have the claim since June 2007 and still waiting.

  49. Sandra August 2, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Catherine, my ‘Fully Developed Claim’ is at 179 days, current status in eBenefits is ‘Preparation for Decision’. I submitted all of the required documentation, the RO was already in receipt of my service medical records. All of my VA records are available electronically. Not sure if you’ve read my prior postings, but I am completely at my wits end. I recently submitted hardship documentation (eviction notice). So, there are two things should expedite my claim, still I wait. What else do I need to do? I have gone to my RO several times, each time I end up bringing something to their attention that’s right there in black & white. I’m starting to feel as if I should be on their payroll.

    Please respond…..

  50. Mackenze August 2, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Its been over 3 years since I started on this appeal process, I’ve done everything that you suggest here and nothing seems to be happening. Nobody seems to be able to tell me anything and despite having provided over 200 pages of detail, I seem to be getting ignored…again.

    I know y’all are busy and thank you infinitely for what you do, but I could really use some help.

  51. spouse of a veteran August 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Can you use this FDC with va21-526EZ if your currently 90% service connected and filing for a increase and I/U with additional MD medical records/statements and will this still fall into the 110day process?

    • Catherine Trombley August 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      Hi Spouse. If you have already filed the claim, then no, you cannot go back and file an FDC. If you want to file the claim, this form is good for service connection (increased rating, first time claim or condition aggravated by service). You CANNOT use it for IU. But if you want to just get an increase and you are 90 percent, you should use this form if you already have all the medical records. We are working to expand the program so you can use it for other entitlements like IU.

      • spouse of a veteran August 4, 2012 at 10:32 am

        Catherine, Sorry I am abit confused. We have not filed a claim for this increase rating yet or the I/U. We do currently have One appeal still pending for 2years but its for his PTSD not all his agent orange diseases. Like i said he is currently at 90% but i want to make sure we get the right information this time around because when our rep did our additional medical evidence etc for his PTSD he filed an Appeal, when he should have file a Reconsideration with additional evidence. So i dont want to have to wait years and years for this increase and I/U CONT

        • spouse of a veteran August 4, 2012 at 10:39 am

          Catherine also, I dont understand why the VA cant do these I/U’s the same way they handled a FDC. When a veterans Va primary docotr and Va specialist say that someones diseases have progressed and cant work anymore, why does it take 2years to receive this. You know when a veteran is 90% disabled, they are really very very sick and to drag there % out and I/U is not right. VA has all the medical records from the first 90% and a DBQ and additional medical evidence to more the qualitly for I/U , it seems to me they are only helping those who file for something less serious. Cont.

          • spouse of a veteran August 4, 2012 at 10:49 am

            Catherine ,, what is the fastest and most accurate way to handle our situation. 2years is absolutely crazy when you are 90% very ill and have everything clear as day . Also, one more question i have . I really even hate the thought of saying this but if my husband is 90% now, and something was to happen to him if the VA would drag this out and it is a service connected death, where does that leave me and our family. Would we still be entitled to benefits and dic etc. Thank you again for all your efforts in trying to help. We truely need this like so many others.

      • spouse of a veteran August 5, 2012 at 11:13 am

        Thanks Catherine, so let me make sure i get this correct, Ok, he is 90% now, so his VA primary doctor fills out this DBQ form stating the reasons why she believes he qualifies for a increase in rating and also states he cant hold down his job any longer and he is the only provider in the family ,and should be considered for I/U. Then do i provide this DBQ to our reps office and have him file this FDC or is that something that we do. and will this fall into the 110day process.

        • Catherine Trombley August 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm


          Make a copy of the DBQ for your self to keep and give the original to your rep. A new claim for IU can take some time, but if your husband’s health is that poor or you have financial problems, you can ask for expedited processing. We are working to expand the FDC program to accommodate IU claims. Should your husband pass during the claim, you can substitute yourself in and get any accrued benefits (if the claim is ultimately approved). Also, if he dies due to a service connected disability, you would qualify for DIC. IF that happens, make sure the sc condition is one the death certificate as a primary or contributory cause of death.

          • spouse of a veteran August 9, 2012 at 11:06 pm

            Thank you Catherine for your reply. It has helped me out alot. I agree that yes VA has really improved in so many areas and speaking for myself cant thank those who made these changes happen for veterans and families. Its good to hear that they are working to include I/U claims to be filed with the FDC Program. That will take a huge burden off the shoulders of so many veterans/families who are hanging on for hope.

  52. Stephen August 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    I am one of the soldiers who was a test subject during the Edgwood Arsenal Experiments. I was exposed to 6 substances (one substance twice).

    I have provided the entire FOIA file obtained from the US Army, plus my personal health records.

    Years have pasted.

    I think the delay is due to other veterans filing a lawsuit of which I am NOT a part,

    So do I just wait and wait and wait until their lawsuit is finished?

  53. Phillip Snead August 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I submitted my claim in March 2011, under the BDD program seen the dr in May 2011 and then retired from the Navy in August 2011. It is now August 2 2012 and I am still waiting on my claim to be completed. I dont even have a rating, I have been pending a rating decision since January 19, 2012. I have called and the region center in Winston Salem was more worried how I got the number then about my claim. What do we have to do just get our claim? But all I continue to see if that the VA is adding programs to make the claim process better, how about adding something to get the back dated claims completed then worry about getting the process fixed. Thanks.

  54. MEG August 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    In my experience, VA physicians will not complete DBQs, even though it is a VA form. Non VA doctors often do not have 15-60 minutes to fill them out either. What is the veteran to do if his or her treating providers are VA physicians?

    In addition, the VA examiners I have seen for compensation and pension exams have not always been physicians and have in fact been physicians asistants or nurse practitioners. My primary care provider is a VA adult registered nurse practitioner. She knows my case and she does a damn good job. It would make sense that the primary care provider who takes care of me complete the DBQ but her hands and the veterans hands are tied because she is an adult registered nurse practitioner.

    VA will only accept a DBQ signed by a doctor. In addition, VA will not pay or reimburse any expenses or costs incurred in the process of completing and/or submitting a DBQ.

    Finally, my VA compensation claim of over 600 days WAS fully developed when I submitted it in 2010. I requested ALL of my records myself. I tabbed my service treatment records and my private treatment records with each diagnosis and highlighted ALL of my records myself. I have worked with an EXPERIENCED veteran’s service officer. My evidence WAS provided to VA up front but my wait time has not been reduced at all.

    My recommendation would be to mandate VA clinicians complete the DBQs when requested. It seems inappropriate and unethical to me for a VA provider to refuse to complete it. In addition, mid level providers such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician’s assistants as well as LSCSWs or LMFTs have the knowledge and expertise to assess, evaluate, diagnose and treat veterans and the general public within their particular field, such as primary care, women’s health care and mental health care.

    I understand that VA had to start somewhere and that is appreciated. Mid level providers provide a great deal of health care in this country, particularly in rural areas. Mid level providers perform C and P exams for VA. Why can’t they complete and sign the DBQ? Why are VA providers allowed to decline completing the DBG for the veteran? I can understand it if they do not have time that day-then reappoint the veteran and appoint them for the appropriate time to complete the questionairre.

    • Catherine Trombley August 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

      VA medical providers can complete DBQs. However, we allow them to refuse IF they believe doing so will affect the patient/provider relationship. Think about it – if the provider can provided evidence that did not help your claim and submitted it, how would that effect your relationship? What if s/he told you that they could not do it for that reason … would that effect your relationship? It would affect mine. It’s for that reason we do not mandate VA providers to fill out DBQs, but we do encourage it and are working with our medical centers to make sure they understand the difference.
      Also, VA accepts a DBQ signed by a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant – it has to by law. But you are right, we cannot pay for a DBQ. DBQ is an elective, not a requirement. If your doctor won’t do it, we have C&P exams. If you do not want to wait for C&P, you can use DBQs.
      Many private providers would rather fill out a form than write a free-hand letter, which is what they used to have to do. Providers already fill out forms for SSD, daycare, workman’s comp, sports, etc. these forms are not that much different.
      DBQs and FDC is all about offering you options and solutions. Unfortunately, FDC was not available 600 days ago, otherwise it sounds like you would have been perfect for the program.

  55. Earnest Rhymes August 2, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    I have two claim pending, one for dependency, the other for Aid and Assist for my wife. This is my third marriage, and when I submitted my claims, they wanted to see my divorce papers form my first wife. The Thing is, that before I married my second wife, I had to prove that I was divorce from my first wife, so they already had the divorce papers. Things like this is holding up my claim. I resubmitted the necessary papers, and I’m told that it will take another year before my claim will be processed. This doesn’t make any sense. This a waste of time, and money by the VA. Meanwhile my wife need a wheelchair carrier for the back of our car, to get to Doctors appointments, she has MS.
    Thanks for letting me vent.

  56. Andre August 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    This is so true. Got hurt in 2001. Got shots in my shoulder to do push ups. 6 years after I got out the army, had two surgeries on my right shoulder. I filed last year and had the documents from 2001, listed all the hospitals and doctors. I found out my claim is being rated this summer. Documentation is key! Glad my job title was personnel and I was good at filing!

  57. Joshua August 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    While this article is informative for veterans it is not true. I have dotted my I’s and crossed my t’s, but the VA is spending a year requesting my records. I have also did a BDD (Benift Delivery at Discharge), so when I filled my claim I mailed a copy of my records. It took about 15 months, to get an appointment redone because I have had moved regions. Now I know I was in between 05-11, so therefore most of my records are electronic and it does not take that long to request the documents. I called and stated I have the records. They said no, we are requesting the originals and nothing you can do, it between the VA records and the service. So no I do not agree with this. Truthfully, the process is broken. The Records should be shared simultaneously and be on same type of network system. Another objective would be to create a process when a troop gets out of the service that it isa requirement to submit the records into the database. This is not hard. Technology is allowing data sharing to be easier everyday. Hospitals are running around with tablets rather than paper. Which is quicker to look up issues and to request prescriptions. Right now I am a veteran and DOD employee. I will be working IT for VA in few weeks at one of the VBA regional offices, so I will see what is being done to help out and what type of technology is being used. Just need more information out there and for claims process to be less of a headache and wait.

    • Catherine Trombley August 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Joshua, you are right, it should be seamless. We are working on record sharing programs and an electric processing system. Since you work in IT, I know you will agree with me that these things are not overnight. We are being aggressive, but change like this is never quick.

      Also, send them your records anyway (a copy, you keep the original) and everytime you move, notify VA.

      • Joshua August 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm

        Yes it does take time, but the DOD and the VA should mirror each other. Why? It simple you are just transitioning out of the military. All data should not have to take months and months to look at. Making a simply Database query out of the medical records, would make it easy to find problems in your history for the claim. Also, a veteran, if seen already at the VA, should not have to actually file a claim. Why? They have already been cared for and seen. Now as long as the records and the issue match, they should be compensated already. Till this day, I still see paper. There should be no paper process involved anymore. It should be all automated. VA and DOD have some of the top medical care, so they should not get out passed by some of the other hospitals. Dr’s should have a tablet and can order your prescriptions in front of you. They should be able to add and submit data on behalf of the veterans. Even their current disability. First, the VA should take on an approach to get rid of the back log.

        One question. Did the Secretary have to wait for his claim or was his claim done quickly since he went from a General to Secretary of the VA? Just a thought!!! He should have went through his own process just to see how messed up it really is!!!!

  58. Dain Anderson August 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Oh, and DMS, Social Security Disability is ONLY for people who are 100% disabled and then it is dependent on the persons earnings while working both Military and Civilian jobs. My significant other (who is a non Vet) gets Social Security Disability (SSD) and gets $876/month and she has worked since she was 12 (got SSD in 2002 at age 52). I know of others who have worked less but get more SSD!!

    Also, Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can be gotten by a Veteran BUT the amount is varied by the amount of the disability payments the Vet receives. Also at a certain point the VA compensation out weighs the SSI and you wind up not getting SSI anymore.

    I have already checked it out. I have asked all the questions on it and foud out also that even SSD is adjusted for the amount of VA benefits!!

    • Rick August 7, 2012 at 11:20 am

      SSD goes by your earnings not how long you worked, and SSD is not adjusted…. If your recieving a rating from the service..over ten yrs get both

  59. Armando Musquez August 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    What can you do for a reconsideration claim that has all the documentation for approval but yet has been in process for over 3 years…the rep that is suppose to be helping me from the Purple Heart Organization says…all I can do is be “patient”…calling the VA only gets a “in process” response. Have not heard a peep from the VA one way or the other for going on 3 years now…my rep says that this may take as long as 5 years…what if I wait for those 5 years only to find out that it is not approved bc something else needs to be submitted…this long process is what frustrates most Vets to begin with…have since found out I may fall in the “combat vet” status but I can’t do anything until the claim has been processed…I was in the evacuation of Saigon which put us in combat status…how can I expedite this request without being “black listed” by the VA and never getting my claim processed????

    • Catherine Trombley August 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      Are you asking for a Recon at the Board of Veterans Appeals or the Regional Office?

    • Bill Prevatt August 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm

      Hey Armando Musquez, when you figure that one out, please let me know. I have been working on my claim now since Nov 1998.

  60. Ginger Kieffer August 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    This seems like a GREAT program on the surface, however a bit disingenuous. If you give the VA Everything you have up front and they deny you your claim, then what evidence do you have to give them that is NEW to give them for an appeal? You don’t, that is where it becomes a bit sticky.

    • Catherine Trombley August 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Ginger, sometimes you file a claim and you can’t get everything (the nexus opinion is hard). So you turn in what you have. VA denies for any number of reasons, but when it does, it has to tell you exactly why and what is needed to grant the claim. This may be something you can get (like a positive nexus opinion) and resubmit to get a grant.

      I used to sit on the phone with Vets who said they turned in everything … and then we would talk through it. “Do you have letters you wrote home?” yeah, they would say. “well why didn’t you turn that in?”
      Work with a VA rep and they can help you think through what else you may have to substantiate the claim.

    • Bill Prevatt August 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      Ginger Kieffer, I know exactly what you mean. They are always saying that we can’t submit redundant evidence yet we can get redundant responses from the Regional office everyday. What makes it even worse is the fact that everything was provided to them, presented to the court, decision made at BVA and the RO decides not to act on it or not even consider the evidence that was submitted in the first place.

  61. Dain Anderson August 2, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I have medical records at the VA medical centers and it seems that the powers that be can’t locate them even when I tell them which VAMCs I have been to, which has only been 4!! I have been waiting this time for 22 months to get a determination for Individual Unemployability or another increase for my service connected disability. I was even given ANOTHER set of C&P exams which I had back 22 moths ago!! While I was told there is a large number of claims I personally think the Vets who have service connected disabilities should take precedence over new Veterans that have just been discharged with questionable problems.

    • Bill Prevatt August 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      Dain, I am right there with you. Those of us that have been waiting for a good long time need to have our claims processed first. It is like we have been forgotten about and those getting out are having their claims adjudicated even before they get off of terminal leave. Something is truly wrong with this.

  62. Richard Green August 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks alot for the much needed information.

  63. Shannon August 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I was discharged in ’06 and filed a claim but I never got a response. I did move to VA where my husband was stationed, then Ohio, then California all in one year BUT I left my forwarding address my home-of-record. I never got a letter or email or phone call, nothing. I thought “okay, they must have denied my claim or something”. It wasn’t until this year when my husband got out of the Navy that I realized that I should have been contacted by someone. He also had the VA rep in California look me in the system and they said there was no active claim. What is the process that I need to go through to get this investigated, as I did have service related injuries. Thank you.

    • Catherine Trombley August 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Shannon, leaving your forwarding address is not enough. Contact VA and change your address every time you move (and your husband too). You can do this through ebenefits, writing it and sending to the regional office or calling 1800-827-1000. I have seen too many claims denied because people do not update their address and VA can’t find you — if you moved three times in one year, I suspect this happened to you. Ask your VA rep to transfer your file so s/he can look through it to see for sure.

      If this is the case, not much will be able to be done. Talk to your rep and see what your options are. My advice is to file a new claim (do an FDC) and then deal with the effective date.

    • charles barton August 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      Sometimes happens. Somewhere between AMVETS and the VA my first claim was lost. After waiting 6 months I went to check on it and then found out it was never received by the VA. Resubmitted and now am in the rating process. This is 2 1/2 years after the VA finally received my claim. There are other nightmares out there worse than mine though.

  64. Chad August 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    What a load of HOOEY! VA diagnosed me with a condition, and then says it’s denied for service-connection even thought it says it is on the very paperwork denying it! I originally filed this claim in March 2009. After A year, I went to the regional office. My file had sat on the same person’s desk for a year!! I might also add that it was with all dr.’s notes, bills, and an Exel spreadsheet to aid in adjudication. Guess What?? DENIED..It’s as plain as the nose on your face. One time I filed a claim, and actually drew pictures, large hi-lited circles and arrows drawing attention to the very issue I was claiming. It was awarded. I have tinitus that is service connected, but don’t receive the 10% for that condition. One of my buds never even filed for tinitus, and is getting paid the 10% for it.
    My providers have been outstanding!! Administration SUX!!

  65. jack August 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    The problem comes when the last military medical treatment center you were assigned to loses the first 14 years of your medical records and there are now no records to find.

    • Catherine Trombley August 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      That is frustrating. I am sorry to hear that. However, one of the many programs we are ramping up is shared medical history, records and facilities so that does not happen anymore.

      My advice to you is to get as many buddy statements to support your claim and turn those in with your claim. Find military buddies who can say they saw the trauma and how it affected you after. Have your friends give you as much as they can. If you have a spouse that was around then, have them write one as well.

      • JPARSONS August 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm

        Catherine, same here no service medical record’s and I am a 1st GULF WAR VETERAN trying to prove that my presumtive disabilities started in service. Can’t be done according to my VSO and VBA , I have been deneid since 1995 and no compensation to date. Please walk me through this so I can get over with this pain and suffering , I’m to the point of ???

        • Catherine Trombley August 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm


          This is the reason I tell all my buddies still in the service to make sure they get a copy of their treatment records.

          There are a couple of options for you though. Have everyone you still know from and during service who saw you hurt your self, have symptoms, or heard your diagnosis write a letter on your behalf (lay or buddy statements). This can be your family, friends, service buddies,. The letters should detail what they saw, heard and how often, as well as your relationship and when they saw or heard the events. VA must consider lay evidence, so if I was your advocate I would tell you to get all the lay evidence you can. This can trigger VA to afford you an exam.

          In certain instances lay evidence alone can be enough to establish the existence of a disability in service. Varicose veins, and flat feet are good examples. Typically they are things a non medical professional would recognized.

          Is not a hopeless endeavor (though it is a more complicated claim).
          When VA cannot find your records, it has a heightened duty to assist and should look for alternatives, such as unit histories, pay records, unit records.

          Hope this helps

    • Bill Prevatt August 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      Jack there is a form and a database that VA can use to locate and retrieve your medical records. Have you contacted St. Louis? St. Louis is where most of service members records are stored.

  66. DMS August 2, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I know for a fact that Social Security offers an expedited process for our wounded warriors. Since a soldier’s military wages are taxed by Social Security, they are potential eligibility for disability benefits.

    Click the link for information on Social Security’s Wounded Warrior Provision:

    An expedited claim for Social Security is different from a VA claim, and one does not interfere with the other.

    • Catherine Trombley August 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      DMS, you are right, there is expedition for SSA claims for wounded warriors. Wounded warriors can receive SS while they are recovering. However, VA often needs social security records because they can help allow us to grant a claim. SSA records contain valuable medical evidence. So the SSA records can help support your VA claim.

      Here is the difference between SSA and VA. To get SS, you need to prove you have a current disability. To get VA, the evidence has to show that you have a current disability AND that it was due to or aggravated by service.

    • atherrien August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      This strikes me as a little funny as I applied to Social Security while I was in the Wounded Warrior Program, IN APRIL OF 2010! Fast forward two years and I have since been awarded 90 percent for Army and 100 percent for VA. I had to wait over a year the first time I applied to be denied (nothing showing my ability to
      work has diminished)! LOL well duh, since they took over a year to process claim, at this point I am bed ridden for almost a year obviously my ability to work outside the home has not diminished in a year its the same LOL but apparently being bed ridden doesnt count.

      Then, this is where it gets good! I obviously appealed this decision. Only to be denied again two months later wow that was quick! Since I am now at that point in the WWP and in rehab and treatment for almost two years (physical injuries not substance abuse) the SSA never got any medical records from them (supposedly even though I dropped off and had them sign for two large boxes of multiple surgery/procedure notes, my entire med records from there). I was actually told by SSA (in writing no less) that they regret to inform me that I am denied again due to the fact that I haven’t been seen for my condition in over a year and therefor I must be doing much better!!!!

      So I waited until my award letters for 90% Army and 100% (unemployability no less) LOL I decided I could live off of my retirement/Va disability. Well Va is STILL working on finishing up my claim (final award letter but no pay date yet??weird?) anyway the pay never started so I went to Dept of Labor to get help finding some sort of job that might take me ( Im a single mom of two young children that doesnt recieve child support) well they denied me because I am “unemployable and medically not available to work” hmmmm maybe I will be approved for SSA then? The state can’t double dip can they??? Well apparently they can cuz I got two letters from “state of Vermont” LMAO! one from ssa and the other from DOL and wouldn’t you know one is denying me SSA due to the fact that I can work, and one is saying I am eligible for unemployment ONCE I CAN BE MEDICALLY CLEARED BY THEIR APPOINTED PHYSICIAN TO WORK!!!!

      I was recently helped by Friends of Veterans because we were homeless, Im getting worried that may have been in vain because Im not really sure that I wont be thrown out because I can’t pay my rent now.

      P.S. I did try to work discreetly, which didn’t go well. I overexerted myself within the first half hour(at a desk job yes i know this sounds ridiculous) now im back to bedrest with…

  67. David Palmer August 2, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Hi, Thanks for the valuable info but I have some ‘real world’ observations for you. The VA hospital in Tucson, AZ and others does not allow doctors (in my case a psychiatrist) to sign DBQ’s. That is a terrible catch-22! You need a DBQ to facilitate a FDC but you can’t get a DBQ signed. The very definition of madness….

    • spouse of a veteran August 2, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      Sry to hear your having problems with the VA not wanting to fill out this DBQ form. How do they expect you to file this FDC if they wont do what they are suppose to do on there end. I was truely hoping this would help so many veterans with a faster and more accurate processing of a claim. I hope you get some answers as to what your suppose to do in this situation because alot of veterans dont have a private MD to fill this DBQ form out. Good luck

      • Bill Prevatt August 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        Spouse of a Veteran, even if you have a private provider those providers refuse to fill out the form because they don’t know the difference between a VA disability rating and an SSI disability. They would much rather just say ‘No I am not going to fill this out b/c I don’t do disability ratings.’ First hand experience.

        • spouse of a veteran August 4, 2012 at 10:19 am

          Bill, My husbands Primary doctor has told him, she will do and provide or fill out anything neccessary for his claim to be awarded. So hopefully she keeps her words. Maybe you should ask for a new Primary doctor. We really like this one we have now.

          • Bill Prevatt August 6, 2012 at 11:10 am

            Spouse of a veteran, I only went to the specialist because I think the specialist should be the one to fill it out, not the primary care doctor.

        • spouse of a veteran August 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm

          Bill, i dont know why the specialist wouldnt fill it out, maybe they dont have the time, i really dont know. Yes you would think since a specialist is involved they would fill it out, but since they wont maybe see if the primary has more time. They are MDs or at least ours is, so that should be good enough( i would think). We just always deal with our primary, because #1 its very close to our home and #2 they just seem to have more time for issues we face. I can only speak from our experiences and she is the only one who seems to have time to listen. Just thought it might help you out, then if they want additional statements, they can get it through medical records etc. I just know our specialist probably wouldnt have the time to fill it out. We didnt even think about it because they always seem in such a hurry when we go see one.

    • Rick August 2, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      You do not need an DBQ to facilitate your claim. Will it speed up the process, yes. However, if you supply all your medical documentation with your claim (VA FM 21-526ez), and complete the certification page, that will suffice. Average claims are taking approximately 10-25 months, depending the VARO that is adjucating your claim. FDC’s are taking approx. 4-5 months.

      • David Palmer August 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm

        Rick and spouse; thanks for the replies and encouragement. My claim is only 460 days old so patience and more patience is the key for me. Even though its frustrating, I have a great amount of respect for the folks at the VA working as hard as they can to process these claims. Thanks again!

      • Bill Prevatt August 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm

        Rick, I hate to do this but I happen to disagree with your time frame estimate. All my medical evidence has been submitted, the BVA made their decision but the RO decided to not act on the recommendations of the BVA and just ignored it all. Average claim taking 10 to 25 months, WHY? The FDC taking approx 4-5 months, in what world? Mine has been 165 months and counting.

        • Catherine Trombley August 3, 2012 at 3:45 pm

          Bill, FDC is a certain designation, because the Veteran stipulates up front that they have no more evidence to provide. If they give more evidence prior to a decision, the claim will be processed the traditional way. Your claim is not designated as an FDC if you started it several years and is an appeal, because you can add evidence through out an appeal, it can take many years.

          • Bill Prevatt August 4, 2012 at 12:04 am

            Catherine, in all the years this has been going on, not one person has ever mentioned an “FDC” to me. I mean once again here is something that the VA is not providing to us, but yet we are suppose to know about it. Heck it wouldn’t matter if it is marked “FDC” or not because the VA just ignores what evidence is submitted and do as they damn well please. Had I known anything about the FDC I would have asked my representative about it and then made my decision. Why does the appeals take many years? I understand if people submit new evidence every 6 months or whatever, but the process for appeals should be much faster than they currently are. I mean if a Veteran has submitted their claim, presented a mountain of evidence than the claim should be adjudicated by the evidence that is presented and not discarded as not revelant.

    • Catherine Trombley August 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      Hi David,
      To clarify, you do not need a DBQ to file an FDC claim, its just one bonus you can add. Without the DBQ, FDC claims are averaging 110 days.

      As to your point with VA docs, we are working through this and doing training with medical personell. The docs are encouraged to do DBQs but do not have too if they are uncomfortable doing so because it could jepordize the patient doctor relationship. In the case of service connection claims for PTSD, that DBQ can only be filled out by a VA C&P examiner. We relax our rules on verifying stressing events, but the exchange was that a C&P examiner had to say your PTSD was due to a military stressor.

      If you are filing for something different, I would ask your doctor if s/he does not believe s/he can provide you with evidence for your claim or if s/he believes filling one out could jepordize your relationship and therefore have a negative impact on your treatment.

      If that does not work, take the form to your patient advocate. Every facility has one and they are there to help you.

      • Bill Prevatt August 4, 2012 at 12:11 am

        Then why have the form available if the VA is not going to honor this form being filled out by an outside provider? I mean it can take months to get in to see a VA provider, so in the meantime a Veteran could possibly do bodily harm because the VA wants the control over this specific specialty. What makes a VA provider any better in diagnosising a service member than an outside provider? I mean for the most part, these providers could careless about us Veterans. All we are to them is a pay check and a number. I mean my last C&P examiner only knew about the military b/c of the Veterans she had seen. I think if I am seeing a psych doctor, they are more qualified to give a correct diagnosis than someone that is doing there internship b/c they want to be a VA provider.

        • spouse of a veteran August 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm

          Sry Catherine, i think that policy is alittle strange to me. The Va finally realized it was a waste of time and money to do a C&P examine when a professional Private medical MD doctor provided the diagnosis and now the VA will except that. Which is a wonderful new policy the VA has done. It will save space for veterans who dont have private Insurance, It will cut down on the cost, and it will help provided a more efficient and speedy C/P. But why is it didnt for a private Pysche MD doctor who specializes in dealing with PTSD, not included in this exspecially since you say they have relax the regulations. Im sure a private pysche MD doctor knows what stressors are. There are so many older veterans and with all the new claims coming in for this PTSD, you would think the VA would want to honor what these private MDS are doing and providing to help speed up this process. I reallly feel sorry for these returning veterans who have to wait for a C/P exam when they could go outside the VA themself. I dont know thats just my opinion. Also, i truely thank you so much for even providing this blog and trying to help so so many veterans and families who are facing such terrible situations. I commend everything your trying to do.

          • Catherine Trombley August 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm

            Hi Spouse,

            VA relaxed the standards for PTSD, meaning Veterans no longer have to go through a lengthy stressor verification process. Now, a VA doc reviews the service records and your claims file and then examines the Veteran. If the doc feels the in-service stressor is consistent with PTSD symptoms and diagnosis then we service connect.

            Since a private doc does not have benefit of the claims file (and often military health records) they cannot a rational opinion. I know its frustrating, but its a HUGE improvement from the days when Vets would wait very long periods of time for a verification of the stressor.

  68. Carol Boese August 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Thank you for the information assisting our Veterans in streamlining their VA benefits!! After reading, I do not believe the information will assist my husband. He retired in Jan 2009. He went to his medical appointments that he was aware of. He later learned that the clinic that he went too released him without doing the hearing appointment (he wasn’t aware it was set up). He had the local VA Rep send a letter indicating this along with a dispute to one of the claim determinations. Does it normally take more than two and half years to get a medical appointment for a determination? Is there a website that he can utilize to view his personal information/status of claim? Or a phone number to a person he can speak with to ensure that his paperwork is in process? Thank you for any assistance you can provide.

    • Catherine Trombley August 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      Carol, getting an exam can take some time, but it depends on where you live. Your husband can view the status of his claim (as well as medical exams) at The site will ask for some information to prove identity and then you should be ready to go! there is a lot of useful information there. I use my account about once a week. You can also call 1800-827-2000. Be sure to use the call back options if wait times are long.

    • JPARSONS August 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Carol , if you do not get a answer here please visit this website